Gritty Holiness

Too often we read about the flowery side of the spiritual life where everything is roses and all is easy if only done for God’s glory and the good of the Church. Many biographies of saints give the impression that these holy men and women were somehow born that way and that miracles abounded throughout their lives.

This false notion of spirituality has done more harm then good in my opinion. It lowers the Christian religion into a myth or fairytale which seems just within ones reach yet never close enough. It’s a religion that somehow seems made for others and not myself.

The tales of saints performing miracles with every breath they took, levitating off the ground in rapturous prayer most certainly isn’t something I’ve ever experienced or seen. This certainly isn’t to deny the miraculous which Christ can and does work through his holy ones. It’s simply the realization that for most of us this simply isn’t the case.

So let’s be honest. Spirituality is tough. At times it can seem like a long and arduous process which has no end in sight, for the moment one catches a glimpse of the Divine He disappears.

“Love thy neighbor” many times is met with “try not to kill him today” because as we all know human weakness abounds!

More often then not our desire to sit in silence with the Divine Office is overruled by the exhaustion we experience from the endless needs of the day. Lectio Divina is pushed away by that one last email that needs to be responded to. The moment we can catch our breath no time is left for those things which we wanted or needed to do all along.

There are endless things which pull us away from our spiritual lives. This is nothing new. Most of us are not called to live out our lives in the desert contemplating the life of Christ or healing in mass those who seek our guidance and help. Like most, we simply strive to do our best and hope that we find God in the process.

Holiness isn’t something you find in books and it certainly isn’t like many of the depictions we see from long ago – at least not in the ways they were described in their literary form.

True holiness is the parent who does their deeds with the greatest amount of love they can muster. It is the nurse who prays for their patients even after they were cussed out and spit upon by them. True holiness lies in the prayer that is a sigh of exhaustion from the work done for the kingdom versus the Ave Maria that was offered up 150 times in Latin.

Give me the saint who tells me he’s been beaten down by the rigors of life yet tries to love God over the one who seems to have had nothing but sweetness in his life. Give me the saint who says, “today God I praise you with my sleep” versus the one who neurotically tries to find security in rules and regulations. Give me the saint and the spirituality that shows me the muck and grime and filth one gets upon oneself when carrying the cross and while striving to help others carry theirs.

Holiness is gritty and grimy and sometimes downright nasty when we get into it simply because it’s about being fully human in a world where we’re called to share in the Divine.

St. Benedict reminds us that God is both in the Divine Office and the kitchen utensils. Holiness is found in the praise of God and in the simple chores of the day. When we work with our hands and get the filth of the world upon us, “that is when they are truly monks.”

Benedict knew that one has to get a little dirty to touch the face of God.